VA denies vet's request for new wheelchair for riding in road

VA denies vet's request for new wheelchair for riding in road

Posted:
The battery in Jan's motorized wheelchair will only take her short distances. The battery in Jan's motorized wheelchair will only take her short distances.
Jan is a former Marine and has a service-connected disability. Jan is a former Marine and has a service-connected disability.
The control panel is loose, adding to the chair's unreliability. The control panel is loose, adding to the chair's unreliability.
"I am not supposed to ride in the street because of their concern for safety issues," Jan said. "I am not supposed to ride in the street because of their concern for safety issues," Jan said.

By DON DARE
6 On Your Side Consumer Investigator

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - For those who have served in the armed forces, following rules and regulations is a way of life.

Dealing with the Veterans Administration is somewhat similar.

Former service members who receive assistance from the VA have got to follow procedures, but not everyone agrees with them.

Disabled veteran Jan English, who lives alone, says the battery in her motorized wheelchair will take her only a short distance.

"Maybe six blocks," she said. "As far as the chair will go before it starts losing power."

So, when Jan and her service dog, Chayna, go out for a walk in her West Knoxville neighborhood, the chair is not reliable.

"I'm afraid if I go five or six blocks and it goes down, it will stop in the street," English said. "It has happened."

Jan is a former Marine and has a service-connected disability.

Unable to use her legs, Jan depends on Chayna to assist her at home. She also doesn't have full use of her arms due to nerve damage.

She keeps a traditional wheelchair in her van for use when she goes out, but someone has to push her, so the motorized wheelchair is her main means of mobility.

"It's a lemon. Period," she said.

As Jan showed 6 On Your Side, the chair is falling apart. The control panel is loose, adding to the chair's unreliability.

Jan has asked the VA for a new chair, but in a letter from the VA's Special Equipment Committee, her request was rejected, despite being approved in the past.

"I do not meet the VA's criteria for electric mobility," she said.

We were puzzled by the VA's vague letter. What was the real reason for denying her a new chair? 

Jan gave us permission to contact the medical center in Mountain Home about her situation.

We were told that she rode her chair out on the road while going to a grocery store.

Jan said she told a VA counselor that with the exception of one block, she used the sidewalk.

The other day, she got a call from the medical center's director.

"I am not supposed to ride in the street because of their concern for safety issues," she said.

The VA suggested told 6 On Your Side Jan used poor judgement in the safe operation of the chair.

"They told me the same thing. By taking her, Chayna, for her walks in the street," said Jan.

Jan can appeal the VA's decision, but she doesn't hold out much hope she'll win.

In the meantime, her chair's battery continues to quickly run out of juice shortly after it's charged.  

In its letter to 6 On Your Side, the VA emphasized that if Jan does appeal, she will have the opportunity to update the Special Equipment Committee to explain to that group how she safely uses her chair and why she should receive a new one. 


Don Dare's 6 On Your Side reports can be seen every Monday, Wednesday and Friday on 6 News at 6:00.

If you have a consumer issue, call the 6 On Your Side Hotline at 865-633-5974 or email ddare@wate.com.

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